The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says it's made a major arrest concerning a sophisticated shoplifting network in Tampa.
Deputies say 31-year old Toccara Huff created a career out of shoplifting.
"She would focus in on high-end items, such as expensive sunglasses, perfumes," Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's Larry McKinnon said Thursday.
Investigators say Huff would then re-sell those items to some beauty supply stores along Hillsborough Avenue.
During an undercover operation focusing on International Plaza, Westfield Brandon, and Westfield Citrus Park malls, deputies pulled Huff over and found more than $2,500 worth of stolen merchandise in her car.
They say she was using what's called a "booster bag" to shoplift thousands of dollars in goods from 17 different stores.
"Inside the bag, it's been designed with some added material in there that they know will defeat a lot of the security censors," McKinnon said.
Deputies say this isn't Huff's first time being flagged for sticky fingers. She has more than 20 previous arrests in Hillsborough County. Many of the charges deal with theft.
"Because it's not a violent crime, often times they avoid jails," McKinnon said.
Still, some say the crime is victimizing companies and consumers. Experts say some retailers spend major money each year staffing and even advertising shoplifting surveillance efforts.
"If one store can do a better job fighting shoplifting then another one, then they can gain a competitive advantage. They can make more money and sell at a lower price if they can do a better job fighting shoplifting," said Bill Newton of the Consumer Action Network.
Experts say in the end, shoppers are often the ones who end up coughing up more money to offset the cost of crime.
"This is a billion dollar industry that impacts us all on the price of the everyday products that we go out to buy," McKinnon said.
The Consumer Action Network says some stores actually raise the price of items up to 25 percent to offset losses they face each year due to shoplifting.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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